By Astha Agrawal:
As I pen down my thoughts, perched on one of the top-most births of the bogie, all my senses are at work. I can hear the hustling and bustling of the train, especially the metallic wheels trying to be in harmony with the rail, and the air intimating its anger against the unscrupulous intruder that has stolen its otherwise unhindered pilgrimage. I am glad that my ears have chosen to heed to the conversation between the ostensibly non-living nature and the man-made invention, rather than the noise of fellow Homo Sapiens around me. However, somehow this old man manages to end my seclusion. He is apparently amidst a hackneyed conversation ( it is more of a monologue) with others like him who have vowed to end the ‘adventure’ of the directionless-youth. The elocution could be titled as ‘Adults Know Better’.
I wonder how numb I have become to their rhetoric; of having unceasingly told by them that:
I am adult enough to elect my leaders (but not enough to be one).
I am fully-grown to get married and run a family (but not enough to decide who to marry and when or whether to marry at all!).
I can be blamed for whatever is wrong with the world (but cannot be assigned responsibilities to rectify the mistakes — which are inter-generational by the way!).
Such hypocrisy! Or should I call it ‘soft power’ because sometimes even the young give into these baseless beliefs.
The other day, I got to interact with the German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development who was on a brief diplomatic visit to India and had decided to meet civil society groups. He acknowledged that over the past few days of his interaction with Indian leaders, what he found most striking was the conspicuous absence of the young and women – truth long awaited to be recognized.
By 2020, India will be the youngest country in the world with an average age of 29 years! According to the latest 2011 census, India’s youth bulge (age group of 10-24 years) makes up for 31% of the country’s population. And yet, we are governed by the oldest parliament in the world! Is it not unfair? The fact that the female population (49%) to female MPs (11%) ratio is even more dismal aggravates me further. It breaks my heart and rips my soul apart when I am uninterruptedly addressed as human resource for growth. I object to be called a demographic dividend which they intend to capitalize (and do very little for the purpose meanwhile!). Any kind of investment occasioned in me is for the sake of GDP numbers. Youth are often told that they are trouble-makers. Well, I disagree. The statement is more of a speech-act than an empirical one. I can barely see lack of troubles in our parliament. I wasn’t the one who threw chairs in the most ‘civilized’ structure of the State. I do, however, want to spotlight that we should be a part of the solutions(s). Is it not always preferable to have fresh perspectives, and enthusiasm to challenge the status quo? Does anyone want to challenge it at all?
I want to be a part of the democratic process from planning to execution, beginning to end; to celebrate and participate in politics on an everyday basis — all of this without having required white hair to be grown on my head. The ink that marks my voter identity should flow through the pen I wield to write the changing saga of this country. Presently, there are only two spaces accessible to youth — work/career/education and (rather reluctantly) streets — the world of protests. The political space, especially one of decision-making is denied, a big loss in the form of opportunities to learn and thrive. The mosaic of youth’s aspirations is gigantic and colourful, imprinted by a spectrum of identities, each with its own salience and consequence. Notwithstanding the complexity, the identity of the youth is unavoidable and best when attended to. The young will shape the future, it is often proclaimed — but only after they have become prosaically aged! Why I am repeatedly deferred to an enigmatic but non-existent universe called future? How does one create a space in a far-away future without claiming the present? Oldies know better!
What do I want as a youth? To not be treated as a crude rock which is expected to metamorphose into a soft pebble in the due course of the brook of time, but as a river that may sometimes traverse the set path, sometimes transgress it; is both limited and limitless. In its exuberance lies its beauty and potential. I want to be seen, acknowledged, talked to, listened to, understood, and respected. I want to be taken seriously. Call me a rebel, but not improvident. I may be an agent of change, a harbinger of peace, and so are many like me, but only if I am not thrown under the shadow of an uncertain future; only if I am allowed the space and means to cast a light over it — to be able to see what lies ahead and vision what I can do, along with others, about it.
The old man hasn’t lost his fire. But I feel mine grow stronger. Nothing about us without us! My senses have agreed to spare me calm and all I hear, feel, and see is the following:
“I am part of a lost generation
And I refuse to believe that
I can change the world.
I realize this may be a shock but
“Happiness comes from within”
Is a lie, and
“Money will make me happy.”
So in 30 years I will tell my children
They are not the most important thing in my life.
My employer will know that
I have my priorities straight because
Is more important than
I will tell you this
Once upon a time
Families stayed together
But this will not be true in my era.
This is a quick fix society
Experts tell me.
30 years from now I will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of my divorce.
I do not concede that
I will live in a country of my own making
In the future
Environmental destruction will be the norm
No longer can it be said that
My peers and I care about this earth.
It will be evident that
My generation is apathetic and lethargic
It is foolish to presume that
There is hope.
And all of this will come true unless we choose to reverse it!
(Read it again in reverse).